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The regime’s gratuitous Praetorian Guard

[Lakbima News, Sunday, 19 September 2010 09:50 No Comment]

The excuses trotted by Socialist Alliance MP’s for voting in favour of the 18th Amendment (18A) have appeared in articles and interviews; their utterances in parliament have been published. They err on three counts; defiance of instructions issued by their parties, misleading the public on the nature and direction of the threats to democracy, and thirdly lacking the foggiest notion of how to resist the trend to dictatorship. Today I will not discuss 18A itself, the watershed event on the road to dictatorship, nor the first of these three errors, only the other two.
18-2 For two months in public the Figureheads (it is not possible to call them leaders anymore in the context of trashing party decisions; and Figurehead is polite enough anyway) pronounced the executive presidency a monstrosity. In the 10 days to September 6 they described 18A as appalling and joined the vehement opposition within their own parties. Even Vasu’s statement of 6 September announcing that Socialist Alliance parliamentarians would vote with the government said “We are opposed to 18A but will vote with the government”. The purported reason was that there is a militarist, reactionary and imperialist threat to this fine government, so the UPFA-Left must rally round and protect it.
Then in an interview in LakbimaNews on 12 Sept Vasu did a somersault describing 18A as an excellent step for economic consolidation and eulogised Rajapaksa in radiant terms as a president to be retained in power forever. The Figureheads utterances in parliament too were fulsome in praise of 18A, a tougher executive presidency, and adulation of Rajapaksa. These somersaults are beyond belief and reason; it must be dementia.

Militarism

Yes there is an ongoing process of militarization but who is carrying it forward? Is the leading face of militarization the anti-18A protest movement or powerful Rajapaksa personages? Are the military forces not deeply integrated with the political strategy of the government? Was it the anti-18A protest movement that voted a military budget of Rs.204 billion? The war is over, what is the military being still built up for; to crush resistance when people react to dictatorship and economic hardship? Yes there is militarization but it comes from within the state and in collaboration with the strategy contained in 18A. The Figureheads are selling the opposite story that militarization comes from anti-18A protests; an incredible slight of hand. It is also extremely dangerous as it covers people’s eyes to the real sources of incipient fascism and constructs a scarecrow, a figment of the imagination. It misleads and deceives regarding the nature and direction of the peril facing the country.
Or is the message this: Sarath Fonseka now imprisoned and stripped of rank, medals and pension, poses a grave military threat with the ability to confront the juggernaut at the service of the state? Or is anyone still peddling the story that the JVP has deep cells and penetrates the rank and file? If ever the JVP had influence it has surely been flushed out and fragmented. The defence establishment does not need gratuitous advice from the Figureheads to do its job; it must be in stitches of laughter about its new found protectors.
What are the reactionary pro-capitalist forces that are trying to undermine 18A? The regimes spokesmen, pro-government media and apologists doing government’s dirty work have made it clear why they want a stronger executive than envisaged by JR in 1978. Lee Kwan Yu authoritarianism is their role model. They have said with crystal clarity: “We are going out on a rightwing economic road which will be the centrepiece of our strategy for the next period. We are prioritising capitalist development and full power is needed to push forward”. So rightist reaction is not against 18A; on the contrary 18A is a central element in this rightwing economic strategy. Whether you agree, disagree or partly agree with the economic strategy is another matter, but 18A is a key part of it.
Hence we have an intertwined constitutional-military-economic approach. It was not an accident that the Defence Ministry controls urban development and is poised to dismantle the Colombo Municipality and take over. It is not an accident that pavement hawkers and the poorer informal economic actors are being ground into the dust. It is not an accident that 60,000 shanty dwellers will have their dwellings razed and relocated. The Left’s task is not protecting the government and 18A from the reactionaries; rather it is protecting people from being bulldozed by the new economic strategy.
Or perhaps when the Figureheads speak of saving the government from reactionaries they refer to the broken and beaten UNP? Does anyone really believe that the UNP in a state of turmoil is a greater threat to democracy than the economic and military forces devouring democracy and emerging from within the bowels of the government itself? Come on get real!

Imperialism

The third goni billa conjured from the recesses of hallucinatory brains is imperialism. Old Stalinist hacks used the term ‘anti-imperialism’ to fool people and sell garbage. Well the difference this time; nobody is buying. Where is the imperialist opposition to 18A? Where have the US and Western powers said a word against it prior to 8 September? The only global ‘imperialist’ that made any commitment is in close embrace of the Rajapaksa government. The IMF is associated with the budget and the economic strategy mentioned above. Indian capital and Indian state capital are committed to this government; remember India is now included in the American strategic umbrella.
The threat of imperialism, to the extent that it exists at all, emanates from within the regime. One doesn’t need to save the regime from imperialism but to save the poor from the inequity inevitable when the Rajapaksa-Imperialism joint venture gets moving.

What the Left should do

How should the Left deal with this deadly scenario? Yes, mass consciousness is still at low ebb, significant sections do not yet see that 18A lays the groundwork for authoritarianism, militarism and a far-right economic policy. Many are still slaves to racist ideology strengthened by war victory. Victory in a racist war has been Lanka’s version of the opium of the people! It is also true that the mass around the SLFP includes important constituents of the social forces that should be mobilised against dictatorship.

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